Just what is going on with Cessna and its 182 workhorse, also known as the Skylane? The company announced three years ago that it was re-engining the 182 with the SMA 230hp turbodiesel engine, already a certified engine. The existing avgas burning 182s, both normally aspirated and turbocharged, were phased out.
But now they could be coming back. According to a report on the American AOPA website, the US Civil Air Patrol, a long-time user of the Skylane, has done a deal with Cessna for new avgas-burning 182s. CAP had placed an order for the diesel 182, known as the Skylane JT-A, but it appears that’s been dumped. The AOPA report says avgas 182s will also be available to other potential buyers too.
Not having a 182 Skylane in Cessna’s piston-engine line-up has hurt the company. The 182 is traditionally one of Cessna’s strongest selling aircraft. The last year the 182 was officially in production was 2012 when Cessna sold 67 182s (including 19 turbocharged versions). Only the 172 Skyhawk sold more. Look back to 2007, before the financial crisis, and Cessna delivered 301 Skylanes – outselling the 172. These figures are from GAMA (General Aviation Manufacturers Association) by the way.
300 aircraft! At roughly 500,000 US dollars each, that’s $150 million revenue! No wonder Cessna is bringing back the avgas 182 Skylane.
So what’s the problem with the turbodiesel 182? Cessna and the French manufacturer of the engine, SMA, part of the giant Safran group, aren’t saying. There are three possible scenarios. 1, there’s a technical problem. 2, there’s a production problem with SMA supplying engines to meet demand. 3, there’s a relationship problem between SMA and Cessna. Could be all three of course.
So what about the turbodiesel 172 Skyhawk?
Some of the American press seems to think the 172 fitted with the Continental CD-155 turbodiesel engine is going the same way. However, at AERO Friedrichshafen in April, Cessna showed off the new Cessna Turbo Skyhawk 172 JT-A aircraft and was quite clear about its future. The company said the Turbo Skyhawk JT-A is already approved for European operations, with a FAA validation in work.
Indeed, an STC (Supplemental Type Certificate) has been in place to fit the CD-100 series of turbodiesel engines since 2009, when the engine maker was known as Centurion. Continental Motors bought Centurion two years ago and has integrated the company’s products into its line-up of aero engines.
Diesel aero engines for aircraft such as the 172 and 182, already well proven in Diamond Aircraft’s range, are essential for sales across the world other than the USA. Avgas fuel is a struggle to find in many places and expensive. It’s expensive enough already in Europe where at least we can buy it fairly easily. In places like India, China and Russia, seen as expanding markets particularly for pilot training, aircraft burning Jet A or similar are required. So if Cessna doesn’t produce a suitable aircraft, they will have to hand the sales to Diamond or Piper, with its DX Archer.
Just one last thought, could Continental be working on a 230hp or thereabouts turbodiesel suitable for the 182 Skylane? Continental’s Chinese owners have the cash to make such an investment and, having bought Centurion, it has the expertise. Does working with Continental and the German engineers behind its turbodiesel engines appeal to Cessna? Is that why Cessna is going cold on the existing Skylane JT-A?